‘Marriage for all’ opponents hand in signatures for referendum

Opponents, and supporters, of the “marriage for all” project in Bern on Monday. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Swiss voters look set to have the last word on a historic same-sex marriage law after opponents on Monday handed in signatures demanding a national referendum.

This content was published on April 12, 2021

Around 59,000 verified signatures were handed in by a committee in Bern, two days after the collection deadline ran out to challenge the “marriage for all” law approved in parliament last December.

Under the Swiss system of direct democracy, a law passed by parliament can be brought to national referendum if 50,000 signatures are collected within a window of 100 days.

The committee – made up mainly of members of the small, highly conservative Federal Democratic Union and the large rightwing People’s Party – argue that same-sex marriage warrants not merely a new law but a constitutional change.

They also say allowing lesbian couples access to sperm donation procedures is “legally and morally questionable”, and that the well-being of children needs to be considered.

The “marriage for all” project was accepted by a large majority in parliament last December, after years of debate and modifications – the original idea was put forward as a parliamentary initiative by the Liberal Greens in 2013.

As well as allowing for same-sex marriage, the law will allow lesbian couples have a child through sperm donation, while facilitated citizenship procedures – currently unavailable for same-sex partnerships – and adoption rights will also be widened.

Switzerland is one of the few European countries where same-sex marriages have until now not been allowed. Same-sex couples have been able to enter a “registered partnership” but this does not entail the same rights and obligations as full marriage, especially when it comes to citizenship and joint adoption of children.

On Monday, the deposition of signatures at the Federal Chancellery in Bern – complete with campaign props including a dressed up (female) bride and (male) groom – was also attended by a group of LGBT activists who brought their own banners and arguments.

This latter demonstration was broken up by police, who also took the names of 49 people for flouting Covid-19 regulations about gathering in public, according to the Keystone-SDA news agency.

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